As the soon-to-return inhabitants of Ramsay Street assured us over many years, “Neighbours, everybody needs good neighbours.” Indeed, for most of us, neighbours are a fact of life that can have immense impact on the quality of our lives, even determining whether we feel happy and safe in our own homes. Relationships with the people next door can even influence our mental health.

Those with challenging neighbours often feel increased levels of stress as soon as they drive into their own street. It doesn’t need to be extreme behaviour as shown on programmes like Neighbours from Hell. Consistent low-level disturbance and tension has a cumulative effect. According to Which? magazine, around ten million people in the UK claim to be adversely affected by their neighbours’ behaviour. Noise being the main cause of complaint.

A few years ago, after 30 years in splendid isolation in rural Aberdeenshire, we decided it was time to move nearer the city. As elderly purchasers, we understood having neighbours would be a culture shock, but how to identify potential problems? How much can you tell from a casual drive around a prospective purchase?

Multiple visits at different times of the day and week can help. There are some obvious alerts including, deliberate or neglectful garden rewilding. Trampolines and football goals placed against a shared fence immediately ring alarm bells. Yes, yes, I know, youngsters need somewhere to let off steam. Nevertheless, when you’re in your 70s, it’s something you can do without. It's also worth looking out for potential parking flashpoints, especially at weekends. A four-car family can be a real cause of strife and on occasion, has even led to murder.

Of course, we asked the seller about any problems with neighbours. Are they really going to be open about the nightmare family next door? I know there’s an obligation to report issues that have arisen in the past five years. It’s more than likely any comeback will be met with, “Well, they were fine when we lived there.”

The seller of the house we eventually bought assured us that it was very quiet and most people in the street “were elderly like yourselves.” As it turned out, that was true, but some purchasers discover the awful truth only after they sign on the dotted line and move in.

Even buying into a street where most of the residents are elderly is not without risk. Elderly people have a habit of dying or moving into care. If the house is relatively large, it’s odds-on it will be bought by a family and the whole nature of the street can change overnight. Light-stealing extensions and planning disputes loom large. Younger people socialise more than we oldies and noisy parties cause friction.

Some friends had neighbours who regularly partied until 4 or 5am. On one occasion my friend could stand it no more and hammered on their door. He informed the host that, “We’re trying to sleep next door.” “Well, I suggest you go back to your bed, then,” was the retort. Not much you can say to that.

While noisy music seems to be the biggest issue, there are others that can lead to rapid escalation. Pets, particularly yapping dogs, are a real irritation. What can you do when next door’s cat uses your garden as its personal loo? A relative in England lived in semi darkness due to a neighbour’s 15ft leylandii. They were removed, but soon replaced by fast growing beech trees not covered by high hedge legislation. The roots are now cracking her patio.

It’s good advice not to become too friendly, too soon. In that situation disputes can go nuclear very quickly. As the old saying goes, “a good neighbour smiles over the fence, but doesn’t climb over it.” It’s always wise to set and observe boundaries and realise “just dropping by” isn’t always welcome. Being able to smile and wave to your neighbour is probably a wise boundary. At least opening the possibility of compromise and discussion when issues inevitably arise.